African

Though the scientific and moral case against flying is robust, the reaction to making it has made me lose faith in the power of individual action. I think the only solution is a carbon price: see why in my new introduction.

Africa is going to be the continent whose people are hit hardest by climate change. This is partly meteorological fluke, and partly because the people there are so poor. Famines, droughts and increases in infectious disease will ravage the continent, and its poverty-stricken inhabitants won’t be able to afford to adapt. It’s those who have contributed the least to climate change, those who haven’t ever set foot on a plane, who will bear the brunt of its consequences.

In depth

Why Africa? It’s called global warming, isn’t it?

Africa will almost certainly be the continent most devastated by climate change. “Global warming”, the increase in average worldwide surface temperature, is the way that scientists quantify the extent of change from a ‘normal’ climate. The actual changes in temperature from location to location will vary either side of this average depending on how the global weather patterns change.

Africa’s tragedy is twofold: first, that it is a huge, equator-straddling continent whose weather will be radically changed, and secondly because so much of Africa is so poor and underdeveloped.

The continent will exhibit all of the effects described in the Killing section, with disease, food, water and extreme weather all being altered by the changing climate. Some countries will see a 50% decrease in agricultural yield as a result—and, with only half the food, they will need to feed more people if the huge population growth continues. For those unconcerned by human effects, there will also be catastrophic economic impacts. The cost of stopping the encroaching ocean as sea levels rise could be 5–10% of GDP in some areas. This would cripple many industries from fishing to, ironically, tourism. 1

The human health impacts will be worst in low-income countries, and the poor will bear the brunt Worldwide2. According to the IPCC, “Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate variability and change because of multiple stresses and low adaptive capacity”3.

I don’t care about a few Africans. Bring on hot summers and vineyards in Yorkshire!

Even the most selfish amongst us should be concerned about climate change because, though it is the developing World which will bear the brunt of the human cost, the West will be hit too, in both health and economic terms. Recent natural disasters such as hurricanes and heat waves show that the developed world is far from equipped to deal with the kind of severe weather events which will be increased in frequency with unchecked global warming.2

It’s even worth getting to grips with global warming from a cold economic perspective. A review of the economics of climate change, presided over by Professor Sir Nicholas Stern, found that though the cost of preventing climate change will be huge, at some 1% of the World’s GDP, to tackle its consequences if left unchecked could cost us twenty times more4—a fifth of all the money in the entire World. These are the extremes of the projected estimates, but the overall finding was strongly in favour of the notion that stopping climate change would be cheaper than tackling it.

So, by not getting on a plane, you’re safeguarding your own country’s economic and human well-being, as well as saving the lives of the hardest-hit in Africa. What are you waiting for?

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